Columbia Land Trust completes Klickitat Canyon Conservation Area
July 29, 2020
Columbia Land Trust and SDS Lumber Company today announced the conservation of 4,900 acres along the Klickitat River Canyon in Yakima County, Washington-by far the largest land conservation success through acquisition in the Land Trust's 30-year history.
The newly conserved land completes the nearly 11,000-acre Klickitat Canyon Conservation Area, representing the final step of a multi-phase effort and the culmination of 12 years of planning, research, fundraising, and partnership. The conservation area brings together a culturally diverse group of stakeholders and benefits forest health, fire and climate resilience, jobs and economic opportunity, and exceptional wildlife habitat.
The forested canyon and surrounding area are the ancestral lands of the Yakama people-a rugged and scenic landscape of great ecological and cultural significance. The vision for conserving Klickitat Canyon was developed with support from the Yakama Nation.
"The Klickitat River is Washington State's longest wild river, a third of which lies within the Yakama Nation reservation. It is an essential artery that supports our culture and way of life. We support and depend on partners and owners like Columbia Land Trust that strive for good stewardship. It is important to share the understanding of the importance of enhancing and protecting these significant aquatic and ecological places because a watershed like the Klickitat is the last of its kind," said Phil Rigdon, Superintendent, Yakama Nation Natural Resources.
Conserving these lands maintains crucial connectivity for ecosystems and wildlife, bridging the Yakama Indian Reservation, a national forest, a state natural area, and a state fish and wildlife area. The varied landscape, which includes pine forest, oak woodlands, basalt cliffs, and grasslands, provides critical habitat for wildlife such as mule deer, black bear, golden eagle, flammulated owl, and even meandering mountain goats.
The total Klickitat Canyon Conservation Area includes 7.8 miles of Klickitat River frontage, bringing nearly the entire upper two thirds of the river into conservation. The river supports one of the strongest wild steelhead runs, and one of the only remaining bull trout runs in the lower Columbia River system.
"Through conservation, the Land Trust is ensuring that the Klickitat, the longest free-flowing tributary to the Columbia River in the state, will run through a protected landscape, giving wildlife room to roam and people access to wilderness," said Cherie Kearney, Forest Conservation Director for Columbia Land Trust.
The land was purchased from SDS Lumber Company, a privately-owned, vertically integrated timber company based in Bingen, Washington.
"This is an unparalleled opportunity to protect valuable forest land that provides critical fish and wildlife habitat and historical and cultural value," said Jason Spadaro, SDS Lumber CEO. "We are excited to help make the vision of the Klickitat Canyon Conservation Area possible; it shows how working together and partnerships can create a legacy that present and future generations will enjoy."
The project was made possible in large part through the Washington Wildlife & Recreation Program, as well as the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) via the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Section 6 and U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy programs.
This landmark conservation success comes as the U.S. House of Representatives prepares to vote on the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill approved by a wide bipartisan margin in the Senate, which would permanently fund LWCF and dedicate critical funds to future conservation projects like this one. Just as projects like the Klickitat Canyon Conservation Area bring a broad range of community members together for a common purpose, the LWCF gives lawmakers the opportunity to reach across the aisle and rally behind a program that uses no taxpayer dollars and works to preserve special outdoor places for generations to come.
We are grateful for the bipartisan support of our Washington State delegates for the Klickitat Canyon Conservation Area, a tribute to LWCF's bipartisan appeal and support and yet another success in the lead-up to passage of the Great American Outdoors Act.
"This is an incredible opportunity to provide continued and meaningful conservation along the Klickitat River, and I'm excited to see this landscape preserved for future generations," said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, the elected official who oversees the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. "This project is exactly what the Land and Water Conservation Fund is designed to support, and why its continued funding is so critical to Washington state and the nation."
Now conserved, the conservation area will continue to offer public access to recreation, including angling, hunting, paddling, wildlife watching, and sightseeing at some of the most impressive vistas in the state.
Moving forward, the Land Trust will steward the land to balance priorities of forest health, wildlife habitat, jobs and economic opportunity, fire and climate resilience, and carbon sequestration.
The conservation of Klickitat Canyon Phase 3 was made possible by funders, including the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board, The Conservation Alliance, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through Walmart's Acres for America program, and by individual contributions.